How many home and garden shows have I seen on TV where a young couple buying a “fixer upper” wants to change the fireplace right out of the box. It is “dated,” an eyesore, and “it has to go.” It is usually made of brick from floor to ceiling with a modest tile hearth that has seen better days. When did that become a horrendous detriment to the décor? Stone is just as bad. People find it cumbersome, heavy-looking, and too rural in tone. What looks good in a ski lodge looks unsightly on a living room wall.
The designer accompanying the prospective buyers on these TV shows tells them how great it will look when redone and does some computer graphics to show just how. Wham! In a second, the atrocious monster is a sleek modern warming pit ready for real wood or gas logs. It seems that fireplaces have always been the focal point of a great room, and everyone wants one, even in Arizona. After all, the temperature could drop to 70 degrees!
Fireplaces add charm, grandeur, modern style, and utilitarian function depending on how they are build. Outside on the patio, they are the perfect accompaniments to the ubiquitous grill and lounge chairs. Wherever you want them, a full-scale version is best, but you can buy freestanding and portable models as well. Some more modern, minimalistic room designs, like the one in the photograph, are swapping the traditional fireplace for a modern wood stove unit instead. It all depends on the size of your room and the final effect you desire. They all have their assets.
An elegant home that deserves the name must have a fine fireplace. The smallest apartment needs one of those built-in TV size units that operates at the flick of a switch (the worst case scenario is an actual screen with a film of fire). A mansion demands a commanding presence more than a few feet wide. Marble can be magnificent when it fills the eye with its swirling, reflective grandeur. Imported tiles are also nice and various kinds of stone that are a far cry from the old crudely cut boulders that use to be so common. Who ever thought that equated with luxury? It was décor for the sake of décor, but not of taste!
Mantles add the final fillip to any concept and they come in every possible style and size. A fireplace begs for a good one upon which you can place special objects like photos, vases, and artwork. TVs often are mounted above any sort of personal paraphernalia. What you have to decide is your overall look: country, urban modern, retro, log cabin comfy, ranch, English Tudor, or French Provencal. If you look up these styles, you will see the differences, clearly expressed through certain furnishings, colors, textures, and accessories.
A simple plank of hewn wood with a light stain gives a far different impression than finely-carved wood (hard to find any more so be ready to make the rounds of the antique stores). You can buy an entire fireplace frame including the mantle if you are open to spending a few bucks. These are recycled from older homes, especially mansions, from a time when craftsmanship was valued. The wood and finish can be glorious. There are also replicas that can be painted or stained in any color you like.
Modern mantles are simpler. An expanse of wood or marble is all it takes to become a long pedestal for your favorite objets d’art. This is not usually carved and has a sleeker finished than a ranch mantle. Sometimes you want the thing to just disappear and not make much of a statement. There are plenty of fireplaces that have no mantle, especially those pre-fab that you just slot into place in a recessed area of your wall. Many people who build custom bookshelves like to keep an area open at the bottom for a faux fireplace for looks.
A fireplace in the bedroom is a luxury indeed. It is usually smaller and less of a focal point, but it does add warmth and visual appeal. If you house comes with it, consider yourself lucky as they are hard to add after the fact. Portable models that sit on the floor are a bit too rustic for a sleeping area.
All in all, you can see that a fireplace can be a major style and décor issue for most any home. It will spark up your space and add pizzazz. Having them in any numbers surely adds to the resale value of a home, especially when they have been cleaned up and redone.